Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is creepy for patients and their loved ones. The diagnosis means that life will change entirely, and can cause many complex emotions. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are things you can do to help yourself extend the time you have before the disease becomes cruel, and to help your family and friends prepare to give you the help you will need.
Some Alzheimer’s patients live alone throughout the early stages of their disease, and experience only small disruption to their daily activities. If you will be living alone, now is the time to sit down with a trusted family member or friend to arrange the house in a way, which will be effortless for you to function. Creating a plan of daily activities can help, and leaving a copy of that plan with a friend or family member so that they can call you and remind you of the things you need to do that day is also useful. You might want to carry a diary or notepad around with you to jot down thoughts or things you need to remember as they occur to you. Label your drawers and your cupboards to help you keep in mind where to find things. You can also label photos of people you see often for when you struggle to place names and faces. Put notes to yourself around the house reminding you to do things like lock the doors and turn off the oven. Keep a catalog of phone numbers by all the phones, and leave a set of keys with a neighbor you can trust.
You will also need to deal with your financial issues. Set up direct deposit of any checks you are receiving if you can, and arrange for a family member or friend to pay your bills for you. A lawyer can help you set up a living trust, so that a person you appoint has the power to make financial decisions for you. You also need to consider the potential costs of your future care in terms of doctors, in-home nurses, and/or treatment facilities, and calculate your ability to pay for them. Your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association can advise you about any local, state, or federal disability payments available to you. During this time, you can also choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable to oversee your treatment.
You should also visit a lawyer to deal with legal issues that may arise. You should draw up a living will, which states your feelings about future medical problems, including your feelings about resuscitation and artificial breathing mechanisms. At this point, you can also appoint a person to have durable power of attorney, meaning you would like them to make medical decisions for you when you are incapacitated. When you are deciding who should fulfill that role, keep in mind that person may have to make a decision to switch off life support or other complicated issues.
Make sure to pay attention to your physical health. See your doctor regularly, and have someone help you keep track of important questions you want to bring up at your appointments. Take your medication exactly according to the directions, and ensure a trusted family member or friend is available to check up on your medication daily. Eat healthy and get exercise as often as you can. Don’t push yourself beyond what you feel up to, and allow yourself to take a break when you are tired. Alcohol can influence your memory, so try to hold back on drinking, or cut it out.
Don’t neglect your emotional health, either. Make good use of the Alzheimer’s Association chapter in your area, and have your doctor refer you to a therapist if you need to talk. There exists definite drug therapy for Alzheimer’s. Your doctor also may be able to prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications for you. Alzheimer’s disease is also difficult to manage for your loved ones. Encourage them to seek out the help and support they need and to have a group of support in place for times when things deteriorate.
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